Untold Secrets –A Look Inside a Real Estate Agent’s Computer!

We’re taking a break from our ordinary commentary to share the best real estate web resources that we and our Realtor colleagues have on our desktops.  Put these powerful tools to use when you’re dreaming about your next home, when you’re advising a friend who’s thinking about moving, when you’re planning a vacation (really!), or if you’re just a real estate nut and want to know more about how the pros do it. There’s no particular order to our list (but it’s no coincidence portlandmaps.com comes first)!

  • portlandmaps.com. (Web only)  A Gem!  No city in the nation has a resource like portlandmap.com.  Fundamentally it’s an aggregator of information from a dozen City and Metro databases, a one-stop web site where you can get everything from crime statistics, tax information, building permit history, sewer and water connections, demographic data – you can find out if there ever was an oil tank in a property’s front yard, and how many gallons it held!  Simply said, portlandmaps.com is the most data-rich source of information for a specific property you can find on the web.  It’s nearly always the first resource we turn to when we’re studying a new property.
  • Google Earth (Web, Android, iOS)  Meet the dynamic duo: portlandmaps.com and Google Earth.  Why hop in the car to see what that great new listing on NE 24th looks like when you can “drive” on over on Google Earth and see it, and its neighbors, from right out in the street.  The biggest fuel saver in our business.
  • HomeQuest  (Web)  HomeQuest functions as a robust, easy-to-use interface between you and the Realtors Multiple Listing Service (RMLS).  Every day you’re delivered an email link to all homes currently on the market in the Metro area that meet your tailored search specifications.  You set the price criteria, you pick the neighborhoods you’re interested in, you can even specify things like number of bedrooms, baths, schools, and tons more.  The software is map-based and easy – even fun – to use.   Importantly, HomeQuest updates its site every few minutes so the data feed from the RMLS to you is super-fast and accurate.   You can set up searches, change your criteria, save properties to a “favorites” folder, and share notes between you and your real estate agent about properties that catch your fancy.  If you’re in the market to buy a home or you want to study housing trends in your own neighborhood, HomeQuest has to be in your tool kit.  HomeQuest delivers quality listing information because it can afford to: agents pay a monthly subscription fee for the service, which we pass along to our clients for free.  Sign up here from our website.
  • Zillow and Trulia. (Web, Android, iOS) are full-featured, powerful house hunting tools.  We’ve lumped them together, and actually, they’re in the process of lumping themselves together:  in July the two announced plans to merge into one online real estate resource. Zillow is the more powerful tool in our opinion, but both are good “one-stop” resources, with “pretty good” search filters and lots of extra features like mortgage calculators, school information, transportation maps, access to “hidden” inventory, property estimates, etc.  The sites are notorious for outdated / incomplete data; we’ll frequently find homes still posted on these sites which sold days, even weeks ago.  Use HomeQuest for dependable, up-to-date data.   And please, don’t depend on the “Zestimate®” for an accurate determination of property value!   Zillow’s price projections can be off as much as 40% from a home’s actual value.  Zestimates® work well in homogeneous neighborhoods – for example, newer subdivisions – but they’re woefully inaccurate at hitting the right mark in mature neighborhoods with a strong mix of housing styles, sizes, and vintages.
  • Redfin (Web , iOS, Android)  Redfin’s doing a good job, it’s doing a great job, and that’s saying something: fundamentally RedFin is a real estate sales company, and in that sense it’s one of our competitors.  It’s in 25 domestic markets now, including Portland, and many of our buyer clients favor it over Zillow and Trulia.  You can use their app to save searches, add notes to property listings, tag favorites, have new listings automatically delivered to you, and so forth.  Pretty good for a Seattle-based real estate company, if we don’t mind saying so ourselves.
  • Karl’s Mortgage Calculator (Android only)  This is the best free mortgage calculator we know about.  Do it all: Calculate mortgage payments given principal, interest and term. Reverse calculate any one variable given the other three. Enter a down payment amount or percentage and let the calculator show how large a mortgage you require.  See how the monthly payment changes when you factor in additional monthly or annual loan costs such as PMI, HOA, taxes and insurance.  Information can be represented numerically or graphically – Karl’s is a great place to visit when you want to run your “what-if” scenarios.  If you don’t have an Android device the calculators on our website are just as good, they just take a few more keystrokes.
  • greatschools.org  (Web) Find reviews, test scores and directions for schools across the street or across the country including public, public charter, and private schools.  Filter schools by district info, public or private, grade level, distance, enrollment size and the site’s “GreatSchools” rating.  Browse parent reviews, recent test scores, and save schools to your personal list of favorites for quick retrieval later.  This is the best initial go-to resource for schools information on the Web.
  • WalkScore/BikeScore  (Web) Use WalkScore / BikeScore to find the walk-ablity / bike-ablity of any location in the US.   While a number of sites offer WalkScore data, the WalkScore site is the only place that allows you to use their excellent Travel Time Map  to calculate how far you can travel by car, bus, bike and foot from your location.  WalkScore’s really handy for getting to know a city, and while the Travel Time Map alone is worth visiting the site, the heat map feature is very cool indeed.  Check out WalkScore, and think to use it the next time you’re making travel plans.

Do you want even more information about specific properties, market trends, mortgage resources, schools, parks, or the best place to fly a kite / get a decent bagel / buy a used bike?  Turn to us, your dependable one-stop source for “candid, informed advice!”  And have a wonderful holiday season; it’s just around the corner!